Modern Warfare 2
While we may have all suspected this likely was the case, as part of its ongoing effort to get its Activision Blizzard acquisition approved, Microsoft has revealed that Sony is blocking Call of Duty from coming to Game Pass, and may even continue to block it. if the deal eventually goes through.
As part of yet another document detailing Microsoft’s case to the UK CMA that Sony is not on a level playing field with all of this, they said the following about the current deal between Sony and Activision Blizzard:
“The agreement between Activision Blizzard and Sony includes restrictions on Activision Blizzard’s ability to place the Call of Duty title on Game Pass for a number of years.”
This is important, as this is part of the deal Phil Spencer was referring to when he said Microsoft “intended to honor all existing agreements in acquiring Activision Blizzard.”
Some reports indicate that this old Sony-Activision deal will last until 2024, so what that means in practice is that even if Microsoft acquires Activision Blizzard, they’ve pledged to the public, Sony, and regulators that they won’t just Call of Duty off PlayStation, but that they won’t even give themselves an advantage by putting Call of Duty on Game Pass for that period.
Modern Warfare 2
What isn’t clear is the substance of the additional deal Phil Spencer says he made with Sony, which Jim Ryan found “unsatisfactory” and said it was only for three years. It may be that Spencer just promised that Call of Duty wouldn’t become an exclusive within that time frame, because I find it very hard to believe that Spencer would commit to not having Call of Duty games on Game Pass for three additional years. That seems somewhat untenable, though not impossible, with this latest revelation, I think. This would make the Call of Duty series an extremely notable exception to Microsoft’s general Game Pass plans, where virtually every first party game they launch or currently own goes to the service. The main draw of this Activision Blizzard deal primarily for Xbox is probably the ability to put games like Call of Duty and Diablo 4 directly on Game Pass.
But that’s not possible right now, and Microsoft has agreed that it won’t be possible for at least another year or so. I wonder what the fine print of the Spencer-Ryan deal is and if Game Pass was a sticking point that made Spencer happy with it but made Ryan grumpy. Keep in mind this is what Ryan said after Spencer started talking about the deal publicly:
“Microsoft has only offered Call of Duty to remain on PlayStation for three years after the current agreement between Activision and Sony expires. After nearly 20 years of Call of Duty on PlayStation, their proposal was inadequate on many levels and did not take into account the impact to our gamers. We want to ensure that PlayStation gamers continue to have the highest quality Call of Duty experience, and Microsoft’s proposal undermines this principle.”
That seems like it’s focused on exclusivity, rather than Call of Duty arriving on Game Pass during that window, which isn’t mentioned at all. Spencer has previously talked about Call of Duty coming to Game Pass, but now we know that essentially can’t be done until Sony’s current deal expires. The new agreement? That’s the real question, but I feel like Microsoft just wants to give Sony so much here.
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